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Occasional Insanity Outperforms Daily Misery: Day-Hiking Mt. Whitney, Fasted
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August 26, 2011
1:24 pm
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Halifax, UK
Gnoll
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June 5, 2011
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That's a challenge Asclepius - we visit Anglesey regularly and I love to drive back to Yorkshire through Snowdonia and via Wrexham. Snowdon is a beautiful mountain which I know so much about yet so little about; she's a mystery. My big problem is my wife – I have a real "go for it" instinct, yet she is so scared I might hurt myself or worse. That holds me back because I love her.

I will enjoy Crib Goch in VFFs some day. VFFs are my preferred footwear for off trail and silly stuff which might challenge the feet and ankles. Most of my daily walking and running is in very inclement conditions up here in West Yorkshire. I am very happy in my Treksports.

It's an extreme route and one which demands respect. Umndertaking it in minimalist footwear might sounds foolhardy, but for those of us who enjoy minimalist footwear, it's a route which would be suicide for us in firm walking boots.

Where are you at mate – next summer would be fun. I missed this summer and I'm not too familiar with the routes up the top of the mountain to tackle it in winter. We'll be visiting again this autumn, but probably just the Llanberis path for an easy run, maybe PYG.

I love Snowdon!

The romanticism of the old Welsh Kings meeting up there in the hills for the big push is just so cool! The mountains offering safety and comfort for its own people under attack and fighting back against an oppressive force really speaks to me - man, in his environment, comforted and protected by his landscape and his nature. Yeah, love it! Even for an Englishman ... northern, mind!

Living in the Ice Age
http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk

August 26, 2011
2:30 pm
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Paul:

I've done a similar set of traverses in the Desolation Wilderness.

Jim:

Absolutely. Our bodies are lazy and refuse to adapt unless we push them beyond their previous limits.

The shoes are bargain-basement ($15) skate shoes from the local big box store.  They had some padding, but it squashed down within the first few miles and they're now, if anything, less protective than VFFs or Trail Gloves.

Peggy:

I'm leaving the subject in the able hands of Paul and Mario — though I'm discussing it with them, and there will be a little bit of my input in the next article.

The takeaway is that on a ZC or VLC diet, you need to make sure you're eating enough protein to meet your glucose needs as well as your protein needs.  I'm not 100% convinced by Paul's theory that we don't ever make enough glucose via gluconeogenesis to make up for ZC, though I can easily believe that many people aren't eating enough protein on ZC and suffer thereby.

Asclepius, Paul:

I hope to see a team ascent someday!

JS

August 30, 2011
11:03 pm
Chuckie B.
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J. Awesome and inspiring article. Oddly enough my reading this happened to coincide with my reading of chapter 20 of "Good calories, bad calories", and so I undertook a fasting experiment of my own...although not nearly as ambitious as your own: I rode my bike up and down a lot of significant hills for several hours having not eaten since last night, and then came home and didn't eat again until this evening, several hours later. A question: in chapter twenty of "Good calories, bad calories", Mr. Taubes presents information on experiments with human fasting indicating that after several days the hunger subsides and the body just gets on with the business of providing enough energy from your fat stores to enable you to robustly search out your next meal. Have you (or any of you) encountered this? That is, fasting for long enough that your hunger subsides? I'm kinda thinking about doing so and am just curious how long it takes to break this hunger barrier, although, honestly, I wasn't terribly driven by hunger this evening, even after a twenty hour fast during which I was quite active. Oh, also, I live in Northern California as well, do you know of a good source (or resources that can direct me to one) of reasonably priced, bulk, grass fed beef in the area?

August 31, 2011
10:25 am
John
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Chuckie,

I've been doing a lot of intermittent fasts recently (usually between 16-24 hours, although a few at 42), and the thing that I've noticed is that hunger comes in waves. Often for me, it can be very strong at hour 16, and not even noticeable at hour 20. It somewhat makes sense, as it's there, reminding me to eat, but fades, so that it won't interfere with the "hunt" for food. Some fasts are also easier than others.

At some point, I'm going to try out a longer fast (probably 72 hours) to see what I experience.

September 1, 2011
3:35 am
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Chuckie:

Hunger comes and goes...but last time I "hit the wall" around hour 42, which is when things started getting really rough and I started to prepare some food.  I ate at about hour 44.  If I had to speculate, I'd guess that's about the time my protein stores ran out and I had to start catabolizing my own muscle...but that's purely speculative.

Also, my energy level was definitely reduced the second day.

Note that the first day involved a good bit of activity in very cold weather: I'll have to see how that changes in warmer weather and/or with less activity.

For grass-fed beef, farm-fresh eggs, etc., this is the directory you want.  Prices vary dramatically, so shop around.

http://www.eatwild.com/products/california.html

Also a lot of good local deals come up on Craigslist, particularly in rural areas where lots of people have a few cows or pigs on their land.

John:

I think it depends mostly on activity level and your usual meal habits: your body habituates to food at certain times, and gets hungry when it doesn't receive it on the expected schedule.

JS

September 2, 2011
1:33 am
Birgit
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Great article, as always.
I only saw it now because I just returned from the mountains (European Alps) myself.
What you describe is very much what I experience every day that I go climbing.

I ALWAYS climb fastet, because any food in my stomach diverts blood and energy away from my muscles. Performance invariably dips. I always feel my best and most energetic with an empty stomach. I dislike eating when I have to work hard and avoid it at all cost.

ALL my climbing partners have a high carb breakfast and consider it essential, and of course they have to continue all day topping up. Alpine climbs more often than not start some time between midnight and 3am, and usually some time after lunch the people around me start to falter and crumble, despite constantly gulping down energy drinks and carbohydrate gels and what not. I don't get tired, ever, I can go on and on and on, for as long as it takes.

I've even had arguments over it. People demand I eat because otherwise I would put them into danger as well when I hit the inevitable wall. It has never happened yet.
Haven't been able to convince people yet that I am not some genetic freak, but that it's normal and a function of what I eat, or rather, what I don't eat, and how I train.

Having said all that, the kind of climbing I do is not so extreme yet that I would have to dip into my glycogen stores often. Like you wrote, the key is to keep the intensity below the basal rate of fat oxidation. If I did empty my glycogen stores, I'd run into trouble because even fat oxidation requires some corbohydrate to be burned in the background. (Can't recall the exact details, just remember reading about all this in "Extreme Alpinism" by Mark Twight.)

Mark Twight also describes an interesting phenomenon that was new to me, hitting the wall when burning fat. Apparently in his experience, and also in that of other extreme climbers, there comes a point where the body seems to be unwilling to release any more fatty acids. And the cure is to have some fatty food. Even tossing back a shot glass of olive oil works. The moment the body knows more fat is coming (there isn't enough time to actually digest the fat), it's happy to release more from the stores.
He has no explanation for this, just recounted the experience and the fact that many climbers share it.

Fuelling 24-48 hours of intense effort in the mountains is an interesting challenge.
Eating for a day or two of sustained moderate effort on the other hand is easy. Don't 🙂

September 3, 2011
10:24 pm
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Birgit:

Your experience is very similar to mine.  And you're right: people have been told for so long that "you need carbs for energy" that they think they'll simply sputter to a stop, like a car running out of gas, without an endless supply of sugary junk to suck on.

That's some really interesting info from Twight: thank you!  I'll have to look up the book.  And it's the sort of information almost no one knows anymore, because almost no one pushes the human body to its limits anymore except a few athletes under carefully controlled conditions, with ambulance ready and waiting.  Alpinism is one of the few remaining pursuits where survival is completely in the hands of the participant — there is often no possibility of rescue, let alone first aid — and the alternative to pushing your limits is to die.  Beck Weathers is an extreme example.

Thank you for sharing your experiences, and for helping to emphasize that this isn't a matter of being genetically gifted — it's just diet and training, mostly diet.  Did Paleolithic humans say "Hey, I'm hungry, I'd better go eat something so we can go hunt?"  No, they said, "I'm hungry, let's hunt down something to eat."

Welcome to gnolls.org: I hope you'll stick around.

JS

September 4, 2011
12:20 am
Birgit
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Thanks, JS.
I've actually been around since the early days. Also bought, read and loved your book. I'm just usually very quiet, unless you mention mountains in some form or other :-).

"That's some really interesting info from Twight: thank you! I'll have to look up the book."

The book is from 1999, and there isn't any real science in it. Just an incredible amount of experience, and very useful and detailed advice on how to train, eat and climb to return alive. (Plus lots of awesome photos and stories.) Twight sure knows how to treat the human body to get the utmost out of it.

"Alpinism is one of the few remaining pursuits where survival is completely in the hands of the participant."

Which is exactly why I love it so much.
My biggest pet peeve is that these days hardly anybody is willing to take responsibility for anything in their lives. Not for the bad things that happen (always gotta sue someone), not for their living or financial situation, not for their health or their happiness. It's always the circumstances or the genes or other people or something else.

Our society has developed accordingly, so these days most of the responsibility is taken out of people's hands anyway. Responsibility and freedom go hand in hand. Give up the first, lose the latter.
If we want 100% of the freedom we need to be willing to take on 100% of the responsibility. So I go where I'm allowed to do that.

Btw, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the work that you and others do that makes it so much easier for us to take responsibility for our health.
Thank you!

September 7, 2011
1:36 pm
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Birgit:

Thank you.  It means a lot to know I'm making a positive difference in others' lives.  And I'm glad you enjoyed The Gnoll Credo.  Isn't Gryka wonderful?  I still miss her.

JS

September 7, 2011
8:26 pm
Occasional Insanity
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[...] Occasional Insanity Outperforms Daily Misery: Day-Hiking Mt. Whitney, Fasted September 8, 2011By: J. Stanton Read the Full Post at: GNOLLS.ORG [...]

October 5, 2011
12:13 pm
Diane
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Beautiful pictures! I did what you did every day for 3 months, twice. Not climb Mt. Whitney, but hiked in the mountains a marathon or more every day. I slept on the ground every night. Being out in a beautiful place every day for months made me so happy, as did knowing I had such physical strength. We definitely do not belong in beige cubicles.

October 7, 2011
8:55 pm
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Diane:

Absolutely.  We spend most of our time in boxes.  That's not right.  When have you seen a box in nature?

JS

 

October 17, 2011
8:04 pm
Inactivity and Metab
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[...] recently.  (Because of my own interest in walking up mountains, I found JS’s account of his fasted walk up Mount Whitney  both inspiring and educational). The idea is that a healthy body has the capacity to switch [...]

January 26, 2012
5:19 am
Breakfast myth : Ter
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[...] Just found this on Stanton’s site about a similar experience he had while hiking Mt. Whitney…which is [...]

February 28, 2012
8:52 pm
Roleigh Martin
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You may have posted the total hiking time but I can't easily find it, I read this 3 times. How many hours was your hike? Include time from start to finish which I know includes breaks. Thanks.

March 1, 2012
1:10 am
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Roleigh:

Total time was just under 14 hours round-trip from the Whitney Portal trailhead, including about an hour on the summit and a lot of talking with other hikers.  I don't know how quickly I could have done it...but if speed had been my goal, I would have eaten something!

JS

September 16, 2012
8:41 pm
Steven Marjieh
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J,

You will appreciate this.

I walked only a little over 23 miles today.

It was around 1400 ft elevation total.
23.3 miles.
I did almost 13 miles barefooted
I did not bring water or food and had none the entire time.
I did not eat breakfast either. I was 12-13 hours fasted when I started. All I had today was a glass of water and coffee before I started walking.
I wore no sun block
All I brought was my t-shirt, baseball cap, shorts, gps and shoes with no support and completely flat.

I walked over 8 hours and never once got hungry, thirsty, tired or unhappy.

All that stopped we was the soreness on the bottom of my feet (a little raw).

I plan on doing at least a marathon walk/hike like this every month.

I eat around 70-75% calories from fat normally. I only do 15 grams carbs max a day.

Oh I need to mention, last year I could not walk my psoriatic arthritis was so bad. Ever since going paleo, it has really solved/cured almost all my issues. Now is cleaning up my joint damage from years of inflammation.

My only cheats are raw grass fed sharp cheddar once a month or so. Raw grass fed heavy cream on a rare occasion and 85% dark chocolate coconut clusters I make at home.

I typically fast 18-22 hours between meals. Some days I go 26-36 hours and once a month I go 44-48 hours. And my meals are so fatty my friends have a hard time even looking at my plate. Sausages covered in butter and beef tallow. ETC...

September 17, 2012
7:30 pm
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Steven:

That's solid work!  It's liberating to realize our bodies are perfectly capable of such feats...and scary to realize that most people today can't even comprehend the possibility.

Yes, diet is a big part of it...if you don't have metabolic flexibility, you'll never make it past the first few hours without an "energy bar".  And while I'm not VLC myself, it's a nearly foolproof way to force your body to re-learn how to oxidize fat for energy.

Most importantly, that's an astounding rebound from a diagnosis of autoimmune disease!  I'm glad to hear of your recovery.

JS

July 3, 2013
4:50 am
David Nyman
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Great piece. I've been doing IF (20/4) for over a decade and often day-hike on the same regimen in the Scottish mountains and the fells of the English Lake District. I'm not sure that I could handle the Whitney altitude without acclimatisation like you, though I did hike the Grand canyon (in July!) without problems when I was a lot younger (63 now). I don't focus on low carb, but I would guess my daily (pretty much) sessions of endurance, strength or HIIT training have given me a reasonable level of fat-burning capability, as evidenced by the relative ease with which I regularly manage several successive days of fasted hikes in the hills. Anyway, glad to find I'm not the only crazy zero-calorie hillwalker out there!

July 4, 2013
1:57 pm
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David:

As I live near Lake Tahoe at roughly 6200 feet, and frequently ride, ski, and hike in the mountains above, I'm already mostly acclimatized to altitude...though there isn't much air at 14,500' either way.

The Grand Canyon is a difficult hike because it's hot, almost entirely without shade, and you're going uphill for the trip back.  (All the mule poop doesn't help either.)

Do recall that endurance exercise -- particularly fasted endurance exercise -- is strongly catabolic: endurance athletes actually have higher protein requirements than strength athletes AFAIK.  So don't skimp on the meat.

Welcome!  I hope you'll stick around.

JS

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